Tanaka Airbag Recall: Fast Facts

What do high-tech Teslas, rugged Ford trucks, and sleek BWMs all have in common? They all have airbags!

Airbags contain four main parts: a thin nylon fabric bag, a sensor, an inflation system, and an accelerometer. The accelerometer detects the change in speed, which triggers a response from the inflation system. For the sensors to react, the vehicle needs to reach a force equal to running into a brick wall at 10 to 15 miles per hour. The inflation system then produces nitrogen gas, which is the product of a reaction between sodium azide and potassium nitrate. When heated, the nitrogen gas explodes, causing the bag to burst. The whole process only takes about 1/25th of a second.

By stopping a person’s forward motion, airbags protect passengers from serious and fatal injuries like head trauma, spinal cord injuries, or neck injuries. But when an airbag is defective, it can make an accident worse. Thanks to a massive airbag recall, many people have discovered this the hard way.

Here’s what you need to know about the Tanaka airbag recall.

The Problem

The recall, which has been ongoing since 2013, concerns airbags manufactured by Tanaka Corporation, a Japanese company. Due to an issue with the inflation system, the airbags can violently explode during deployment, causing the metal cartridge inside the inflator to become dangerous shrapnel.

In the United States, 15 people have been killed by Tanaka’s defective airbags. Hundreds of others have also been injured. People in humid climates, like Florida, Louisiana, and Puerto Rico, are at the highest risk of injury, since humidity can exacerbate the issues.

Affected Brands

The short answer? Pretty much everyone! From family vans to expensive sports cars, dozens of makes and models have been caught up in the Tanaka recall. As of February 2019, the affected brands are:

  • Acura
  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Cadillac
  • Chevrolet
  • Chrysler
  • Daimler
  • Dodge/Ram
  • Ferrari
  • Fisker
  • Ford
  • GMC
  • Honda
  • Infiniti
  • Jaguar
  • Jeep
  • Land Rover
  • Lexus
  • Lincoln
  • Mazda
  • McLaren
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Mercury
  • Mitsubishi
  • Nissan
  • Pontiac
  • Saab
  • Saturn
  • Scion
  • Subaru
  • Tesla
  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen

However, not every model produced by these brands is recalled.  Since the airbags were primarily installed between 2005 and 2015, many newer models are unaffected.

To find out if your vehicle is on the list, check here.

What To Do If Your Vehicle Is Affected

If your vehicle is affected by the Tanaka airbag recall, you should contact your car dealership for replacement airbags. However, many people have reported long wait times for receiving their airbag. Factors like vehicle age and the climate you live in could affect how long it takes to receive a new airbag. For example, since someone who lives in Florida might be at a higher risk than someone who lives in a dry climate, the Floridian might be prioritized.

For people who are facing long waits for their replacement airbags, some manufacturers are also offering loaner cars.

While you wait for your replacement airbags, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warns against disabling your car’s airbags.

Your Legal Rights

If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed due to a defective Tanaka airbag, you should speak with a personal injury attorney. Multiple lawsuits have already been brought against Tanaka, including a 2017 class action lawsuit that lead to a $1 billion settlement for victims.

Learn More

To learn more about recalls and your rights as an injured consumer, please visit our page on product liability.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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